Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
CALGARY – Taking a three-hour bus trip to Calgary in six-and-a-half hours due to nasty road conditions, the MacEwan Griffins women's hockey team arrived at SAIT Arena on Friday night 10 minutes after their originally-scheduled game time.
It didn't faze them.
Just over two hours later, they wrapped up a tidy 6-2 win over the SAIT Trojans and hopped back on the bus for the lengthy return trip through the night back home.
"We literally just threw gear on and jumped onto the ice – zero warmup, zero off-ice warmup," said head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "Girls just jumped on and the puck was dropped."
Ironically, the Griffins head coach lived almost the exact situation when she was a player for the University of Alberta Pandas.
"When I played back in the day, we travelled to UBC and we used to fly in the same day," she explained. "Our flight got so delayed that we literally had to take vans directly to the game and jump out, and the first few girls (hit the ice). We started with 10 players out there, then 12, then 16 and eventually we had a full roster."
In those situations, you'd think it would be advantage home team. But that wasn't the case on Friday night when MacEwan scored the opening goal just 2:23 into the contest.
"Shyla Kirwer actually got the first of her ACAC career and we built from there," said McAlpine. "We had some dips in the first with the girls getting their bus legs out, but we played a relatively consistent 60 minutes."
Which is surprising, given the circumstances.
"The girls, maybe to my surprise, battled the adversity well," said McAlpine. "We had good energy on the bus and made the most out of the situation. It kind of gave them a motivation in a different way."
Captain Nikki Reimer had two goals and two assists to pace the Griffins – including a sublime short-handed breakaway goal in the second period that ended with the puck under the bar.
"She was excellent," said McAlpine. "I wouldn't necessarily label her as a natural goal scorer, but she works so hard. She stays on top of pucks, keeps battling. Her second goal was a great example of that – just kept fighting in front of the net and was able to bat it away.
"Her first goal actually looked like a natural goal-scorer's goal. She picked off a pass on their powerplay and sprinted in on a breakaway goal short-handed and roofed it bar down. That was a really nice goal."
"I think our special teams are a huge factor for us and we actually talked about that heading into the weekend: SAIT is a highly-penalized team," said McAlpine. "We thought if we were able to capitalize on special teams we'd come out with a win."
Kelsey Patterson and Lexie Shumate had power-play markers for the Trojans.
Sandy Heim stopped 19 shots for the victory, while Kaylin Schellenberg had 28 saves in the SAIT net.
MacEwan (9-2-0-0) will host SAIT (1-10-0-0) in the series rematch on Saturday (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).